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Women judges voice support for Afghan colleagues

The International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) has expressed grave fears for the basic human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, including the right of women to live and work in safety and security.

The IAWJ made a statement on Monday as the Taliban advanced to control over all of the country.

IAWJ President Justice Susan Glazebrook said that, as an organisation of more than 6500 women judges from more than 100 countries and territories worldwide, the IAWJ honoured the commitment and courage of Afghan women judges, given the special role they had played in upholding the rule of law and human rights for all, and the particular dangers they faced as a result.

Since 2003, the IAWJ had been supporting the 270 women judges of Afghanistan, more than 100 of whom were members of the Afghan Women Judges Association (AWJA), which was affiliated with the IAWJ.

Justice Glazebrook said that some board members of the IAWJ spoke with a number of Afghan women judges in July at a virtual meeting of the AWJA.

“The women judges present at the meeting gave an urgent and critical message to their international colleagues,” she said. “One by one, they spoke about the dangerous and difficult conditions in which they live and work. Some judges have lost their lives in terrorist attacks and several of the judges present had received threats.

“The judges stated that they love their country and do not wish to leave. They just ask that they be allowed to continue their vital work in their country’s courts in safety and security. Follow-up messages from AWJA members have outlined the deteriorating situation, with some already forced to flee their posts in the provinces with their families because it is too dangerous to remain.”

She said the IAWJ urged those involved in any peace negotiations to ensure that the rights of women and girls were safeguarded. The IAWJ, however, remained very concerned that, due to the nature of their work and the past rulings they had made in criminal, anti-corruption and family courts, many of the women judges and their families would be in particular danger from the Taliban in Kabul. These dangers would be exacerbated by their gender and the likelihood that persons they had sentenced would be released from prison.

The IAWJ urged governments to include the Afghan women judges and their families, who were in such a desperate and precarious position, in the special measures extended to interpreters, journalists and other personnel who provided essential service to the foreign military forces in Afghanistan.

“By serving as judges and helping develop the Afghan judicial branch, women judges have helped establish the rule of law in their country, an essential pillar of a democratic state,” Justice Glazebrook said. “Allowing them to be at the mercy of the Taliban and insurgent groups, given what they have sacrificed, would be tragic indeed.”

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